By John Solari
Every month it seems that there is a new economic development darling that is suddenly the “Next Silicon Valley.” We’ve got Silicon Alley in New York and Silicon Beach in Southern California. There’s even a Silicon Mountain group in Tahoe.
The obsession with supplanting or re-creating Silicon Valley sometimes loses track of the reality that Silicon Valley blossomed in the early days of a technological revolution that has now spread across the world. Silicon Valley remains the epicenter of this tech economy, but dozens of cities and communities have grown their own vibrant technology economy off of many of the innovations pioneered in San Jose and South San Francisco.
Just like Napa Valley still reigns supreme as the gold standard in wine production, but surrounding areas like Healdsburg and Sonoma have benefited from the region’s national acclaim, Silicon Valley’s long-term regional influence will continue to propel the economies of surrounding communities like Reno. Reno is carving out its own niche in this economy, banking on attractive commercial real estate prices, a favorable location near Silicon Valley, a competitive tax climate and a high quality of life.
The allure of Reno is its promise and potential to become a vibrant technology city without all of the downsides of a tech capital like Silicon Valley. If we can attract Tesla, Switch, Microsoft and Apple, but keep at bay the sky-high commercial real estate prices, snarled traffic and exorbitant housing prices, Reno will remain a magnet to maturing technology and logistics companies.
Reno has a nationally-ranked university with strong research departments. It has competitive technical schools and community colleges. It is turning out both the white-collar and blue-collar workers that will propel technology-driven manufacturing and logistics companies.
It also offers some space from Silicon Valley and a cost of doing business that equals a slower burn rate for venture-backed startups still working through product development or getting cash flow started up. Maturing technology companies can find the room to scale and mature their companies in Northern Nevada away from the constant noise and high prices of Silicon Valley.
Northern Nevada still has a way to go before it has the full technology ecosystem of a Silicon Valley or even an Austin or Portland. We still do not have a crop of spinoffs or a wide variety of venture capital firms or private equity financing options. These will most likely materialize as Reno-based companies mature or are acquired. Like Silicon Valley’s growth can be traced back to Stanford University and the early days of Hewlett-Packard, successful Reno technology companies will feed back into an ecosystem of innovation that will expand the economic opportunities of Northern Nevada.
It’s not hard to look forward and see a bright future for Reno. It might not be a future that holds the explosive growth that Silicon Valley experienced, but instead it might be the maturation into a successful and vibrant second-tier technology city with its own unique character, driven by companies who choose to do business in the Healdsburg, not the Napa Valley, of technology and innovation.
John Solari is the managing partner of J.A. Solari & Partners. He has 25 years of accounting experience and is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Nevada Society of Certified Public Accountants.